Archive for April 19, 2010

And she tries to make sense of his new production Phoonk 2. Though she didn’t win the 5 lakh cash but she managed to sit through the film. Here’s her Phoonk-y dissection. PS – If possible do play Rekha Bhardwaj’s Phoonk phoonk phoonk de to go with the post as its need lil bit of patience to read. In short, lamba hai!

RGV is dead! Long live RGV!

No, it is not sarcasm. I have never understood the import of the above conundrum fully but I think it does apply to our all-time, blue-eyed hero Ram Gopal Verma who loves killing himself with every film in the hope of resurrection with his next. With Phoonk 2, he delivers a punch in the gut to every self-respecting horror film and horror-loving audience, horror-knowing critic. RGV’s word in film-making is final. And will remain so. That was a horrific punch, sorry.

RGV has always done path-breaking films from Shiva, to Satya to Go to RGV ki Aag. He has always pushed the boundaries of conventional narration and formula and made his own language. From Shiva, to Satya to Go to RGV ki Aag. He has engaged with psychology of the characters and pushed the idiom of right and wrong, individual vs society and film vs cinema. From Shiva, to Satya to Go to RGV ki Aag.

With Phoonk 2, RGV, breaks new path. (One wonders how many times this so-called ‘new path’ will be broken? Time and again people say that fellow Anurag Kashyap does it, then recently the town went mad claiming one Dibakar Banerjee too did it. Do they do it with an axe, break this new path, I mean? Must ask RGV, he should know.) The film breaks every ground of conventional narration and has to its credits technical breakthroughs that neither stalwarts nor genius kids can imagine. It covers potent philosophical questions and gives it to its unsuspecting audience as a side dish much more savoury than the main. The sub-text for the uninitiated. We shall talk about the sub-text of Phoonk 2 here.

Phoonk 2 asks some deeply disturbing philosophical and existential questions. Its basic premise, as is that of any film worth its salt in the history of Indian or even phoren cinema is the premise of good vs evil. Phoonk 2 treats this empirical question of human existence as a pedagogical subject of epistemology. The depth with which the lady ghost engages her detractors on her trap of death is an intense viewing experience, especially noting the ease with which she does it. The first one is finished off with a neat head cut off dripping blood by the gallons and the second in superbly crafted acrobatic action. Both these ‘babas’ (no not of Ba-Ba black sheep fame, but then yes maybe) represent the force of good and the ghost lady of evil. The thunderstorming violence with which she unleashes her evil on these two brings into question the very essence of the fight of good vs evil and the strength of each? Well, the battlegrounds are a bit unequal here to raise such significant questions as the evil is so well-endowed (with make-up expert fight masters et al) and the forces of good are? Dhongibabas. Not really a fair representation and hence the question remains unanswered.

The hero, the savior and be all and end-all of everything in a Hindi film steps in gallantly to address this question. But he brings in more layers to this already deeply complex philosophical issue. Can a man with the help of mere continuity jumps, axis jumps and bad Big B imitation save his child from the forces of evil? Does his will alone, helped largely by these instruments succeed in towering over these forces? RGV refuses to stay objective but has the gumption to take a stand here. He boldly steps forward and says, yes, he can. If the film is a Hindi film especially a horrific RGV one, he can do anything. So the hero does. And solves this question of philosophy which would have disheartened Plato.

Phoonk 2 at various levels also engages with existentialism. RGV takes Sartre’s philosophy of existentialism as humanism and turns it succinctly on its head by proving that freewill is not only an attribute of humans. Even camera’s can have it and cinematography and editing shall own the responsibility for it. In a path-breaking manifestation of this philosophy he makes his camera roam here, there and everywhere, making it independent of any conventional language/barriers/notions that society has set upon it. Thus it frees the language of cinema from its own barriers and one sees thrilling, liberated cinematography totally in love with itself.

It is not in the realm of the philosophy alone that RGV resides in. He does address concerns of sociological interest too. Those of relationships and growth while living within the society (yeah sounds contradictory na, to me too). By having the wife refusing to kiss her husband even years after they are married and SO MUCH in love, he arouses(pun unintended) a question pertinent to the Indian society.  That of the sanctity of their conjugal life, that of the privacy of the moment and the non-sexual, pristine image of the woman as wife that should not be broken by kissing your husband goodbye. Similarly, the child, in her pre-teens exhibits similar notions of society-bound rules of growth where she is continuously enamoured by a doll and is drawn to it with a fascination that belies her age and which must also be beyond the ghost who put it there. RGV addresses these very severely important notions of regressions and makes a stinging social comment on society through his protagonists.

In a drama panning several ideologies of human philosophy, RGV does not shy clear of addressing perhaps the most controversial of them all, gender issues. Phoonk 2 is a path-breaking chapter in gender-studies with an ever-evolving lady ghost who chooses to enter the lady of the house’s body and chooses to quiet down as soon that body is killed. One might think this is an extension of the existential question but such is the genius if RGV that he notices and tackles the subtle differences sensitively. The lady as a ghost in the body of the lady of the house is a universal symbol of how women are women’s own enemies. This is also reflected in the ghost killing off the only semi-good-looking girl in the cast, evidently out of jealousy as she is not much to look at now that she is dead and neither was she when alive. In a subtle twist in the tale, RGV beautifully changes the protagonist into the antagonist and quickens the pulse of the film by thrills and chills but also manages to relay his sub-text which examines gender issues as vastly potent as these.

Secondly, it must be noticed that both the babas are male. And the primary subject of Madhu, the ghost’s revenge is also male. The only other victim besides the hero’s sister is also male, the hero’s best friend. This brings clearly into focus the question of the fight of females against their subjugation and male domination. Madhu single-handedly wages this war against male hegemony and patriarchy in her war against this family and RGV succinctly portrays the difficulties a woman has to survive and make her mark in a male-dominated society. That the lead protagonist to bear the torch of such an important question be a ghost, only the great RGV could have thought of it.

In its attempt to elevate our mundane existence to greater heights by engaging our minds to higher domains of philosophy RGV does not forget his environment. He continues to engage with everyday concerns and addresses some deep-rooted questions relating to the film industry too. The impoverished fake blood industry for instance. The coming of Sooraj Barjatya and Aditya Chopra had sounded their death knell. But RGV, in Phoonk 2 made sure they made good their losses of the past ten years or so. Such deep is his commitment. Such deep also is his commitment that he has generated employment for people based on his conviction alone. Jobs for stadicam operators for instance. The one of Phoonk should be eternally grateful to RGV to have got to shoot an entire film in this manner. Secondly repeating actors.  In an industry that changes colours with every hit and flop RGV maintains his loyalties. We have seen that consistency with his heroines in the past and have admired him for that.  Repeating actors despite their bad performances shows solidarity, something that the likes of Farah Khan also don’t do even if SRK is a buddy and delivers a hit with her everytime. That is because it requires a man like RGV to do and I am not engaging in gender issues. Leave that to the masters.

Ultimately, Phoonk 2 becomes a spiritual experience. From the realm of sociology to philosophy it reaches its zenith in spirituality elevating one’s soul when it forces us pray for a speedy end and hope that this time the end does mean the end.

Long Live RGV!